Poor mental health can be a cancer of the mind for its victims, too often with devastating effects for sufferers and their families. We have many great local organisations, like Folkestone and District Mind, that provide valuable support for people, and particularly for those living alone, whose relative social isolation can make their problems worse. I know that the local NHS values this community support, but there is no doubt that the health service itself requires additional resources to improve mental heath care. This is not only needed directly to help sufferers, but also to ease the pressure placed on the rest of the NHS when the correct mental health services are not readily available.
Last week the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, committed an additional £1.3 billion of government money to transform mental health services. This includes a pledge to treat an extra 1 million patients by 2020/1, provide services 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and crucially to integrate mental and physical health services for the first time. To ensure that these extra resources make a difference in the front line, the Department for Health wants to create 21,000 new posts to deliver the improvements in services and support.
All major mental health specialisms will see an expansion in numbers, with the plan targeting areas where there are forecast to be particular shortfalls, as a result of an increased demand for services. In particular, it is expected that this will require 2,000 additional nurses, consultants and therapist posts created in child and adolescent mental health services. 2,900 additional therapists and other allied health professionals supporting expanded access to adult talking therapies, and 4,800 additional posts for nurses and therapists working in crisis care settings, with the majority of these (4,600) being nursing positions.
I want to make sure that our local services benefit from this investment. I have also followed up with Jeremy Hunt about the provision of GP services in Folkestone and across the district. He has raised this with NHS England, who have in turn discussed it with our local South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which overseas the resources allocated to GP services. I will be meeting with the CCG to discuss this, and the plans that have been developed by our local GPs to improve the service available to residents.
On Sunday I attended the memorial march on The Leas in Folkestone to mark the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. In a special service, conducted under the Step Short memorial arch at the top of the Road of Remembrance, there was also a commemoration for the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele, one of the bloodiest periods of conflict in that terrible war. It was great to see such a good attendance both of local residents and visitors to the town, for the service. The Dymchurch Royal British Legion, who led the commemorations, also conduct a service under the Arch at 10.30am on the first Sunday of the month.